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Southlake Style

Overparenting or Conversation Starter?

Apr 03, 2015 09:32PM ● By Dia

By the age of 2, most kids have been introduced to the digital world, and their exposure only increases as they get older. By 12, most have received their first mobile phone. And nearly all—90 percent—of teens are online. These young adults have known the cyber world their whole lives—so now wonder they have an ability to adapt to new technology, apps, gadgets, forms of communication fast—faster than you can keep up.

“The thing is that our kids are digital mavens now,” says Ameeta Jain, co-founder of TeenSafe, a smartphone monitoring app. Jain says that she began developing the app after discovering cyber-bulling firsthand—at the time, she hadn’t even known it existed. “My son had his laptop open and Facebook page streaming—I saw this abusive conversation, and I realized that there was such a thing as cyber bullying.”

She sprung into action. Jain and her husband owned a tech company, and through that company, they began developing an aid for parents who wanted to access their kids’ cyber lives, launching TeenSafe in 2011. To help parents guard against this and other dangers, TeenSafe can be installed on a teenager’s phone without him or her knowing it, and offers access to the teen’s Facebook feed, text messages, call history, web activity, Instagram posts, Kik messages, Whatsapp, location history and more.

Some caution that such monitoring can lead to overparenting—which in turn can cause the child to rely too much on the parent, to resent the parent or to lose trust in the parent. Jain believes the app’s proper use is as an aid to be used respectfully and lovingly—to help the parent know when to step in as the teen grows into adulthood. “It all started from this desire to protect and guide our children, and to be in the know, when something comes up, to be able to start a conversation,” she says.

Jain believes that teenagers may not be prepared fully for the decisions they have to make online. Many of them simply have not developed enough; others do not have the experience or perspective to make the best choices. Ultimately, Jain says, TeenSafe is there to help the parent know when it’s time to step in.

When parents hand over the child’s first smartphone, it might be time to have conversations about what children should do when they encounter strangers online, if they’re pressured to participate in sexting, if they witness or become victim to cyberbullying, and how to know what kind of material is acceptable for them to see and not see.

Jain believes that monitoring should ultimately be part of that conversation. “What we want is that for every child who picks up a smart phone, TeenSafe is part and parcel for the course,” she says of the tool. “We are missing valuable lessons if we don’t have the knowledge that it provides.”

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